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Silvergate Bank Collapse
13th March 2023 • MKG Tax Consultants News, View Points, Taxes & Finances • MKG Tax Consultants
00:00:00 00:16:28

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A bank run occurs when a large number of customers of a bank or other financial institution withdraw their deposits simultaneously over concerns of the bank's solvency.

As more people withdraw their funds, the probability of default increases, prompting more people to withdraw their deposits. In extreme cases, the bank's reserves may not be sufficient to cover the withdrawals.

Silvergate Bank's quick demise through a self-liquidation is prompting a closer look at the many red flags that ensnared the California bank even before the collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX late last year forced a run on deposits.

The state-chartered Silvergate's voluntary liquidation, announced Wednesday, will allow the La Jolla, Calif.,-based bank to wind down its operations, sell remaining assets and pay off its depositors. The process is being monitored by California's Department of Financial Protection and Innovation.

Among the many lessons to be learned from Silvergate's collapse is that a liquidity crunch can quickly engulf a bank, particularly if management makes the wrong bet on interest rates, experts said. Silvergate's monoline business model was concentrated in the crypto industry, where the risks and correlated aftershocks were not fully understood.

"They didn't think deposits would dissipate so quickly in an environment where the securities portfolio was deeply underwater," said Todd H. Baker, senior fellow at the Richman Center for Business, Law and Public Policy at Columbia Business School and Columbia Law School. 

Silvergate's management "underestimated how much they were exposed in multiple ways to interest rate rises, and they probably underestimated how aggressive the regulators would be trying to essentially get a handle on their overall situation," Baker added. 

Silvergate had an unusual business model, holding billions in zero-interest deposits from crypto exchanges. Both FTX and Alameda Research had accounts at Silvergate. It also operated the Silvergate Exchange Network cryptocurrency trading platform that served as a payments network for crypto companies to swap fiat currencies with each other. When the bank shut its network last week, crypto depositors fled en masse.

The deposit and industry concentration, interest rate squeeze and lack of any other meaningful business were self-inflicted wounds.